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New Cover Art for Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War

July 28, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Yesterday, I received the pretty-close-but-not-quite-final cover art for the mass market paperback edition of Bitter Seeds and the hardcover/ebook edition of The Coldest War

At long last!  I've been waiting a long time for this!  Felt like I'd been waiting forever to see the new package.  (I learned about the repackaging in August of last year; I wrote a long blog post about it here.   All of the information in that post about the original cover art, bookseller reaction to it, and the decision to revamp the marketing approach is still relevant.  The projected publication dates in that post, however, are no longer up to date, as has also been chronicled in excruciating detail.)

It was worth the wait.  WELL worth the wait.

Below the cut, feast your eyes on major awesomeness from the superb Chris McGrath.

These covers were unveiled a little earlier in the day over at the Mad Hatter's, so if you're in the mood to see what other folks have been saying — or if you feel the need to complain about the cover art change, but feel self-conscious about doing it right on my front porch here — head over there and join the conversation.  (Not that you're not more than welcome to comment here, too, of course.  You're always welcome here.  You know that, right?  I hope you do.  I try to make this blog a place where you (yes, both of you) and I can have a place to talk.  Because I know you appreciate that.  No, I know you've never said it in so many words.  Don't worry; I can tell.  I'm good at reading the body language of imagined anonymous strangers at vast distances.)

Here's the brand new cover art for the mass market paperback of Bitter Seeds:

Cover art for the mmpb edition of Bitter Seeds.


I just love the expression on her face, the way it combines hints of a calculated long-term determination with an imperturbable sangfroid as she strides through the raging Blitz like she doesn't have a care in the world.   As Gretels go, this is pretty damn good. And this is the first time we've had a glimpse of the wires in her head; the original Palencar cover, which I still love and cherish, leaves that to the reader's imagination.

A more detailed and complete version of the Gretel image can be seen on Chris McGrath's website.  Damn, but the guy is good.

And here's the hardcover/ebook artwork for The Coldest War:

Cover art for the hardcover/ebook editions of The Coldest War.


Man.  Von Westarp really did a number on these kids when he jacked the wires into their skulls, didn't he?  I love, absolutely love, the expression on Klaus's face here, too.  He looks like he's deep in thought, there in the midst of the coldest of wars.  And he should be.  Oh, yes he should.  He has a LOT to think about.

(Addendum, August 1: The full and complete Coldest War cover can be seen on McGrath's site here.)


Like I said the other day, I just can't believe my good fortune that my little trilogy has landed artwork from not one but two incredibly talented top-flight artists.  I'm lucky.

Yeah, sure.  I know it's a drag that the hardcovers of Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War won't match, artwise.  I get that.  Really, I do.  I read a lot, too, you know.  And I like having matching sets of books.  My copy of Game of Thrones doesn't match my copies of the other books and it's a minor irritation.  But you know what I like even more than having matching sets of books?  Selling books.  I especially like it when book buyers for big bookstores take an interest in my books and want to sell them.  Which, you know?  Kind of the point of the exercise here.  So please.  If you're feeling the need to join an internet dogpile somewhere (or send me hate mail) about what a horrible person I am because I changed the cover art on you, and you were looking forward to reading Coldest War but now you're going to avoid it like fucking herpes because you liked the original Palencar artwork so much, please do a couple of things first:

1) Read my detailed post about why the art changed.

2) Educate yourself on how publishing works for small-fry authors like me.  I don't control this stuff, okay?  Because, shit, dude, I don't even influence it.  I'm just the guy who writes the stuff that goes between the front and back covers. There's much, much more to publishing a novel than that.  Trust me.

The Palencar cover captures the emotional tone of Bitter Seeds extremely well.  That's one of the many things I love about it.  (I don't hang artwork in my house unless I adore it.  And believe me, I have to REALLY adore something to overlook a swastika.  And it doesn't matter how small it is.  It's a bloody swastika, for Christ's sake.)  But it miscued a lot of potential readers (and, more importantly, book buyers) because it suggests a quiet, contemplative story.  It doesn't suggest espionage and black magic and explosions and zomg battery-powered supermen.  That's the root of the marketing rethink.


In other news, I had a completely shitty day at work, then came home this evening to find that somebody had broken into my car by smashing the window.  They didn't even steal anything, because I guess I have crappy taste in music.  Not a single CD stolen.  Nothing at all.  (Probably because THERE WAS NOTHING TO STEAL IN MY GODDAMNED CAR, YOU KNUCKLE-DRAGGING BOTTOM FEEDERS.  But I guess you know that now, don't you?  Wow, that must have been a major disappointment for you.)  And then I got a letter from my dental insurance company stating that they changed their fucking minds and decided that they're not covering the cost of my last dental appointment after all, and that they're not obligated by law to explain this reversal, and it's absolutely final.  (I have no idea why they didn't go all-out and write, "PSYCHE!" or even "UP YOURS, TREGILLIS" on the envelope.)

So that's been my day.


Brendon July 29, 2011 at 5:09 am
Just so you know we appreciate you down here in New Zealand and I hope your next day is better, or at least doesn't contain messages from bureaucratic idiots and dealings with thieves. I like the first book (contents), love all the covers and eagerly await the next book’s publication :)
Jo Anderton July 29, 2011 at 5:20 am
WOOOT to the cover images (they ROCK!) and boooo to someone breaking into your car. What's wrong with people?? The covers though, mate, they're so cool. I love them!
Steve Halter July 29, 2011 at 7:20 am
I really like the Gretel. It seems to capture her point of view. I get a kind of Terminatoresque vibe from it (in a good way). Congrats! Sucks about the car. Any idea if it related to the tagging from a few days ago?
Jenna July 29, 2011 at 7:51 am
Well, crap to the crap day, but huzzah for the great new covers! :)
Susan July 29, 2011 at 8:55 am
Oh wow wow WOW, Ian! Those are STUNNING. And a blurb from GRRM!?!? I am speechless--and I cannot wait to get my hands on these books. But I'm sorry your day was such shit. Seriously, who breaks into a car and then doesn't steal anything? Why not look in the window FIRST and then decide there's nothing worth taking? Asses. Asses to your dental insurance as well.
Mike July 29, 2011 at 9:31 am
I'm sure if you sent me a copy of 'The Coldest War' just I could take in all the details on that cover. No? Oh well, worth a try. The two covers look splendid and now I'm wishing the next six or seven months away.
Ian July 29, 2011 at 10:08 am
Hello, Brendon, and thank you very much. I'm happy to hear you enjoyed the book. I desperately want to take a long vacation to New Zealand someday-- everybody I know who has vacationed in your country raves about it. Clearly it's a land of superb literary taste ;-) Hi, Jo! Seriously, what *is* wrong with people? Arghhh. Anyway, I take your encouraging words to heart because you're an author who knows a thing or two about having awesome cover art :) Good question, Steve-- I'm not sure if they're related. Reading this blog probably makes it sound like I live in the hood! It's actually a fairly nice area. The problem is that there's a large tract of undeveloped land that borders both my neighborhood (on the north) and the Park & Ride lot (on the west). And it's very hilly, twisty terrain with miniature canyons and whatnot, so the occasional band of passing scumbags will turn it into a base of operations. Oh, for my own helicopter gunship! Maybe someday... Hi Jenna, and thank you very much! Here's hoping everybody has a good day today. And a good weekend. Thanks, Susan! And yes, seriously, WTF with these thieves? My car was clearly empty. I dunno. I guess it was, technically, possible that I might have been hiding a Faberge Egg inside the armrest. (I wasn't, just for the record.) It's actually kind of insulting that they went to the trouble of shattering my window and then not even stealing my CDs. I have perfectly good taste in music, as we have discussed. It's a tempting offer, Mike :) I just hope the loooong wait proves worth it. I *really* appreciate kind and patient readers like you.
Brit Mandelo July 29, 2011 at 11:16 am
That is some gorgeous cover art! Congrats. It definitely captures a more intense, "active" look. (Sorry about your car! That's such shit.)
Ian July 29, 2011 at 11:26 am
Thanks, Dude. And I'm sorry about Borders-- I'm sure you needed that like you needed an anvil dropped on your head... It sucks.
Scott Denning July 29, 2011 at 2:07 pm
I think these covers bode well for the success of the trilogy. Your use of "miscue" for the Palencar cover of Bitter Seeds is I think very apt -- as intriguing and thought-provoking as the image is, I think it did not communicate to the potential reader the essence of the work. I base this upon observation of folks here at the library. Whenever a copy of BS (sorry) is at hand, I feature it top and center on the much-perused display by the front desk, on its own stand, where I can monitor how people interact with it. People give it eye time, but their "twitch rate" is low. (When a customer is considering picking up a book to read it, their hand twitches unconsciously toward it. This is an insight I picked up after a decade of working in the bookstore and doing displays.) It's probably that darn swastika, a symbol that stimulates arousal (no, not sexual arousal, jeez c'mon folks, I'm talking psychological arousal here) but also a guilt reflex at the arousal. Though many mainstream thrillers have incorporated either the swastika or the "Nazi eagle" into cover art, most folks have been trained to a kneejerk reaction about Nazi symbols. But for whatever reason, that particular cover art does not lead many people to pick the book up. I have observed that of those who do pick it up approximately one-third go on to check the book out, so the descriptive material seems to be effective in drawing them in. But the actual handling rate is low. It should be noted that, in the interest of getting a good read into folk's hands, I regularly recommend the book to customers, resulting in checkouts. Even "non-twitchers" whom I have so encouraged uniformly tell me upon the return of the book that they enjoyed the read, and are pleased to be informed that the second book is in the offing. As far as the new art goes, I can tell you from the bookstore/library perspective that it is far more in line with current readers' sensibilities, with hints of the styles now popular in covers for paranormal romance, horror, and steampunk, all vigorous movers. Gretel poses several questions: what are the oddments about her garb, and why does she have that expression upon her face? The image encourages the reader to find out the answer to those questions. She also looks as though she is just emerging from teenage, which opens up the reader (buyer) demographic appeal. Klaus is more obviously "wired", but also looks as though he could be a soldier in any war since the 40s, including our current involvements. (I really like how his lower half almost recedes into the war-torn ruins beyond, as though he is an extension of the damage, a veritable embodiment of conflict. He is also turned away, as though reluctant or unable to separate from the combat. In contrast to Klaus's blending with the scene, Gretel is stepping forward and out of the cover. Nice insight into each character.) Another reason I think these covers are a big step up is that distinctive name top and center in distinctive font: Ian Tregillis. A name to be reckoned with. It will show nicely on shelf or in book pocket, and I'm here to tell you that consistency in such author branding goes a long way toward moving books. Multiple copies of many volumes of books. Congrats on the upcoming birth of the second child! My bookseller's gut tells me that these covers are really going to help the series take off. As it deserves to do.
Pete Andrei Laurel January 5, 2014 at 2:38 am

Great pic of Klaus there. He's my favorite. When will I see Reinhardt's pic. Just curious. I like all of them. But Klaus the most. 

Ian January 5, 2014 at 6:44 am
As far as I know, further portraits or images of additional characters are up to us!  It's not impossible that the Milkweed books could someday republished/reprinted someday entirely different packaging, in which case we might get some Reinhardt cover art.  But until then (if it ever happens) Reinhardt's image is something we're stuck imagining. 

Great question.  Thanks for asking.
Susan Loyal July 29, 2011 at 2:34 pm
Much as I like "The Boy Who Was Plugged In" up there, I'm much more in love with "Gretel Clears Her Path." McGrath really got the expression, didn't he? Lovely repackaging. (I'm not much of a Palencar fan, but I fancied the treading lightly through a field of skulls. Couldn't carry it in public, though. Just could not.) The threat here seems more--personal. What's with those days when the Great Bird targets your house (and your head)? The day, the car, and the insurance? Bit redundant. Better days ahead, I hope.
Steve Halter July 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm
News headlines indicate a sudden disappearance of passing scumbags in parts of New Mexico. What with the car and the tag and the Tom Sawyer reference, the following tale was probably inevitable. :-) (wrt: Lee, Peart, Lifeson and Dubois) A modern-day physicist Mean chi square, Today's Tom Sawyer Taggers beware. Though his lab is not for rent, Don't put it down as a convent. Its got quite a defense, Beyond the horizon's events. The laser When you try to tag his secret lair You'll find all about the henchman's stare. Catch the mess, catch the mass Catch the wire, catch the pith. The lair has, the lair has, Zero Point Energy Maybe as your eyes go wide. Today's Tom Sawyer, He lets fly on you, And the mind he invades Is in place of you. No, his lab is not for rent To any gods or government. Always finding, new content, Electrodes are permanent Embedded. When you try to tag his secret lair You'll find all about the henchman's stare.. Catch the tagger, catch the tag, Catch the breaker, catch the bit. The lair has, the lair has, Zero Point Energy Maybe as your skies go by. Exit the physicist, Today's Tom Sawyer, He lets fly on you, And with the mind you trade, He gets right on to the fiction of the day.
EEGiorgi July 29, 2011 at 3:30 pm
Wow, Ian, the new covers are AWSOME!!! Yay!
Brit Mandelo July 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm
One of those years, dude. Seriously. It's just one of those years. (But, WFC in a couple of months is a bright spot.)
Tengland July 29, 2011 at 9:51 pm
But ... where's the swastika? Didn't Steve or Walter of Daniel or Melinda or someone say you needed a big swastika on the cover? Not even a small one. Well, I'm not the expert here, so I'll just ... This image of Gretel rips my image of her to shreds. Dude, she's scary. She'll be able to sell the books. She'll make everyone buy one ... I do like the typography, though. Much better.
Ian July 29, 2011 at 11:41 pm
Thank you, Scott, for your lucid and well-informed analysis. It's very encouraging to hear this from somebody who has worked in the trenches for so many years. In fact, your comment is now going to be my point of reference for explaining the repackaging strategy-- when people ask about it, I'm going to point them to your comment. And, of course, thanks for pimping my book to your customers. You have earned that KISS trophy many times over, sir.
Ian July 30, 2011 at 12:01 am
Hi, Susan! "Gretel Clears Her Path" -- hehehehehe. I like that. And I know what you mean about feeling uncomfortable carting the original cover around in public. My advisor from grad school told me that he went on a trip to Germany right after my book came out, and felt the need to remove the dust jacket. As for the Great Bird, a friend of mine has a theory about this. He refers to the phenomenon of the "luck storm". Like high- and low-pressure fronts, there are bad- and good luck storms.
Ian July 30, 2011 at 12:04 am
Steve: I stand in awe, sir. You're the scribe here, not me. I wish you could teach me how you do that so effortlessly. It's really kind of amazing how you toss out these parodies so quickly. And do them so well. I especially like how your version of the song makes my life sound so exciting! I feel like an action hero :-)
Ian July 30, 2011 at 12:09 am
Thanks, Elena! Have a great time in Seattle.
Ian July 30, 2011 at 12:09 am
One of those years, dude. Seriously. It's just one of those years. You are not even halfway kidding. For really real.
Ian July 30, 2011 at 12:10 am
Walter has been the biggest proponent of the swastika. I mean, as an element of cover art design. Not, you know, of *actual* swastikas and what they represent. Just to be clear. In the words of MST3K, she is one freaky mamma-jamma. I wondered if you'd be weighing in on the typography.
Alejandra July 30, 2011 at 12:38 am
The original design for "Bitter Seeds" is one of my favoritie covers ever...But these new ones look really good, too. They contain a sense of grittiness and action that seems to appeal to contemporary readers. Anyway, I'm just glad there's progress going on in the publication process. ;D
Ian July 30, 2011 at 9:07 am
Thanks, Alejandra-- I'm glad, too :-) I still love the original cover design, but I'm thrilled by the new look, too. Best of luck at Urbana!
Scott Denning July 30, 2011 at 12:04 pm
Another great one, Steve! "Today's Tom Sawyer, He lets fly on you" As usual, your new lyrics threaten to crowd out the lyrics of record...
DMS July 30, 2011 at 12:06 pm
I am fond of McGrath's Jin Li Tam, but I may like his Gretel even more. It may also help that I like Gretel considerably more.
Ian July 30, 2011 at 9:45 pm
I love just about everything McGrath does. The gallery on his website is remarkable. A small but, shockingly, nonzero number of people (men thusfar) have expressed a strong attraction to Gretel. I find this troubling.
Steve Halter July 30, 2011 at 10:33 pm
Someone being attracted to Gretel is a disturbing thought indeed. Talk about a black widow fixation. Re: in other news Thanks Scott. I presume once Ian gets the perimeter lasers online everything will be peachy.
DMS July 31, 2011 at 7:51 am
I find it troubling that a nonzero number of women also find Edward attractive. Or are you talking about disturbing fan mail you've gotten?
Ian July 31, 2011 at 9:43 am
Steve-- the perimeter lasers are installed, but I'm having trouble with the power supply. Here's some advice: if somebody on the internet offers to sell you a "telluric phlebotnium dynamo", don't buy it. Turns out? That's not actually a real thing. Dawn, they seem to wait until they can mention it to me in person. As though the attraction is something they wouldn't want to commit to writing. As for Edward, and most other vampires, yes! I've never quite understood how undead serial killers could be objects of romance. But maybe it just means I need to read more widely.
Adrienne July 31, 2011 at 7:26 pm
SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY, TREGILLIS. I confess to being in love with the original artwork, BUT, in terms of conveying the contents of the books, these do a much better job. ZOMG BATTERY-POWERED BAD GUYS, GUYS. Since I bought Bitter Seeds on Kindle, I'll just get it in paperback when I pick up The Coldest War. Matching artwork problem solved, look at me I'm a closer. *drops mic*
Ian July 31, 2011 at 9:49 pm
Matching artwork problem solved, look at me I'm a closer. That was like watching a performance of Glengarry Glen Ross take place right here on my blog.
Adrienne August 1, 2011 at 11:30 am
Well, see, I have a caffeine addiction. And coffee's for closers only.
Ian August 1, 2011 at 11:53 am
You are epic win. You push to limits, every time.
ChiaLynn August 1, 2011 at 4:48 pm
Like Steve, I get a Terminator vibe off the Gretel cover, and I like it. I think it's because she looks a bit like Linda Hamilton did in Terminator 2 - all stripped-down and dangerous and not like the fluffy little girl she was in Terminator at all. (Not that Gretel was ever a fluffy little girl. Gretel was, in fact, a very scary little girl.) See? Actually, now that I look at his gallery, a lot of Chris McGrath's women remind me of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. I'm not sure if that says something about him or me.
Ian August 1, 2011 at 5:10 pm
I didn't see the Terminator connection until you pointed it out. But yeah, I can see a similarity to the almost pathologically focused intensity that Sarah Connor has in the second Terminator film. (Which to me was a really interesting change to her character from the first film. Her experiences changed her in a major, major way.) Actually, now that I look at his gallery, a lot of Chris McGrath's women remind me of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. I'm not sure if that says something about him or me. Linda Hamilton as archetype? There's a thesis waiting to happen :)
Daniel Abraham August 1, 2011 at 6:07 pm
All respect to Palencar, these are *very* nice. I'll be interested to see what the reviews are like with these to cue readers.
Ian August 1, 2011 at 6:26 pm
Thanks. I like 'em, too. I do wonder how (or if) the new covers will alter readers' perceptions.
Sara G August 4, 2011 at 2:02 pm
I think they look great- esp. the Bitter Seeds cover! Very compelling. And your name is HUGE! I love that. I do hope, though, that you also have some cheerful, non-ferocious art in your house to balance out your growing collection of visual badassery. (Shut up spell checker, it is SO a word.) Hmm, sounds like Sante Fe could use some youth violence prevention education. I'll get right on that.
Ian August 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm
Thank you, Sara! I'm working on writing a (slightly) more cheerful, slightly (less) ferocious novel... maybe this one will produce some counterbalancing cover art. Hmm, sounds like Sante Fe could use some youth violence prevention education. I'll get right on that. Please do. Please, please, please.
Corry Lee November 4, 2011 at 8:39 pm
ZOMG, you weren't kidding that the new covers rock. I just went over to McGrath's site and realized that he's done a number of the covers that have really popped out at me. I'm glad that Tor is doing something right in this whole mess, at least, and that these books fly off the shelves as they deserve to.
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